Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 -Report 21

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from debate on the $38.1 billion fiscal 2016 state budget. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

Senate 12-27, rejected an amendment that would lower from $500 to $250 the filing fee for the formation of a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) and the fee for filing an LLC’s annual report with six or fewer employees.

Amendment supporters said the Bay State has among the highest filing fees in the nation. They argued the reduction will encourage businesses to form and to continue to remain and employ people in the state.

Some amendment opponents said the state cannot afford the revenue loss of up to $50 million. Others argued a large tax reduction should be considered as a separate bill that is properly vetted and the subject of a public hearing.

(A “Yes” vote is for the reductions to $250. A “No” vote is against them.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

SICK TIME AT WORK (S 3 — Amendment #15)
Senate 10-28, rejected an amendment that would prohibit the state until January 1, 2016, from fining any companies that violate the voter-approved law that requires both public and private employers with 11 or more employees to allow them to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. Employees working for companies with 10 or fewer workers could earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time annually. All employees would earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. The law itself takes effect on July 1, 2015.

Amendment supporters, noting the regulations are not yet finalized, said this does not delay the entire law but will simply give many businesses time to read and understand the many regulations when they are finalized. They noted a business would not be punished as long as it’s not willfully skirting the law.

Amendment opponents said the law was approved by voters at the polls in 2014, and senators should honor the effective dates passed by them.

(A “Yes” vote is for the delay in the fine. A “No” vote is against the delay.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 8-31, rejected an amendment that would require the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to bring criminal charges for any illegal acts relating to the development and operation of the state’s failed Health Connector website.

Amendment supporters said the site has been a disaster that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars. They argued that the current federal prosecutor is protecting the interests of the federal government and that a state special prosecutor is needed to watch out for the state’s interests.

Amendment opponents said the amendment is not necessary because the attorney general is already investigating this matter. They said the Senate should not micromanage this problem.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 16-23, rejected an amendment allowing cities and towns to petition the state for a waiver of any unfunded mandate relating to education that the state has imposed on a community without paying for it. The amendment requires the state to grant the waiver unless it determines that doing so will lower the quality of education. The state must also respond to the waiver request within 90 days or the waiver is automatically considered granted.

Amendment supporters said that many school systems are in poor financial shape and can no longer afford to abide by these unfunded mandates. They noted the mandates often are not needed and have no effect on some communities.

Amendment opponents said the Education Committee is already considering a bill designed to deal with these unfunded mandates. They argued that Senate passage of the amendment would circumvent an open hearing on the bill by approving it as a budget amendment without proper vetting.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 17-22, rejected an amendment that would prohibit the spending of any state taxpayer money on the bidding for or hosting of the 2024 Olympics, with the exception of transportation-related projects like repair, maintenance, construction and operation of the state’s transportation system.

Amendment supporters said this would guarantee that the state is prohibited from spending any money to obtain or host the Olympics. They cited experiences that other Olympic host cities have encountered including Salt Lake City that ended up costing 2.5 times the original budget.

Amendment opponents said the amendment is unnecessary because the Senate earlier approved a measure that would require passage of a special act of the Legislature before any state funds could be spent on the Olympics.

(A “Yes” vote is for the ban. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 26-13, approved an amendment raising the tax on flavored cigars.

Amendment supporters said the tax on flavored cigars is too low when compared to other smoking products in the Bay State. They noted that these inexpensive cigars are also marketed to young people, and their use is skyrocketing.

Amendment opponents said this tax hike should be the subject of a public hearing and vetted by the legislative process. They questioned if it was legal or wise to have flavored and unflavored cigars taxed at different rates.

(A “Yes” vote is for the tax hike on flavored cigars. A “No” vote is against the hike.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


FAMILY OF POLICE OFFICER INJURED IN MARATHON SHOOTOUT GETS $150,000 — The family of 28-year-old Police Officer Dennis Simmonds, who was injured in the Boston Marathon shootout in Watertown on April 19, 2013, has been awarded a one-time $150,000 line-of-duty death benefit. Simmonds died about a year later after a medical emergency at Hyde Park’s Boston Police Academy gym. The State Retirement Board ruled that medical evidence and incident reports showed his death was a result of the injuries he suffered during the shootout with the Tsarnaev brothers. This benefit was raised from $100,000 to $150,000 in April 2014.

MORE THAN 2,000 STATE WORKERS RETIRE EARLY — The State Retirement Board is processing more than 2,000 applications from state workers for early retirement. Gov. Charlie Baker in early May signed into law a bill creating the Employee Retirement Incentive Program that offers early retirement to thousands of state workers in the executive branch. In order to qualify, a worker must have minimum of 20 years of service or be at least 55 years of age.

Employees who want to participate in the program must file an application for retirement between May 11, 2015, and June 12, 2015, and must retire no later than June 30, 2015. At the halfway point of the 32 days given to sign up, 2,025 workers had applied. During debate on the bill in May, estimates were that some 4,500 people will have signed up by the deadline. So the plan is on target and is expected to save an estimated $170 million.

FINANCIAL AWARDS FOR CITIZENS WHO MAKE SUGGESTIONS TO SAVE MONEY (H 1786) — The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on a bill that would include citizens in an existing program that rewards state workers who make suggestions to reduce the cost of government. The suggestions are reviewed and then winners are chosen by a suggestion awards board. The proposal also specifies the award should be equal to one percent of the expected reduction in cost to state government up to a maximum of $10,000.

INCREASE PENALTIES FOR COMPANIES THAT HIRE ILLEGALS (H 1734) — The Labor and Workforce Development Committee held a hearing on legislation increasing penalties to employers who employ illegal immigrants. Current law imposes a fine between $200 and $500. The new bill hikes that to a fine of $4,000 to $10,000.

EXEMPT LOW-INCOME WORKERS FROM THE STATE’S INCOME TAX (H 1778) — The Committee on Labor and Workforce Development’s hearing also included a bill that would exempt from the state’s income tax the income of workers who earn less than $13 per hour.


“Massachusetts citizens deserve a justice system based on equity and not a bifurcated system consisting of one for well-heeled clients and another for the working poor. Every citizen deserves a fair opportunity to a quality defense if accused of a crime.”

Massachusetts Bar Association Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin Healy on legislation that would increase the hourly rate for court-appointed attorneys who represent the indigent.

“I lost the house where I lived and survived with my savings until they were depleted, and my family then helped me until I got the first workers’ compensation payment. By then the 60 percent of my former wages were not enough to pay all debts that had built up.”

Camilo Ruiz, a worker speaking in front of The Labor and Workplace Development Committee in favor of a bill that would change the workers’ compensation system to help workers obtain their benefits faster and with fewer barriers.

“The results remain clear. We’re glad that the Senate has taken the positive first step of authorizing a control board, but more must be done. We hope every senator will listen to their constituents and advocate for robust reform efforts.”

Paul Craney, Executive Director of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance on a poll that showed Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly support Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to reform the MBTA by a margin of 83 percent to 17 percent.

“Tim Flaherty has been a widely respected lawyer for 25 years with a hard-earned reputation for his honesty and talent. Tim is innocent and looks forward to presenting a vigorous defense.”

Thomas Butters, Flaherty’s attorney, on charges that former House Speaker Charles Flaherty’s son paid the victim of a possible hate crime to refuse to testify against his client.

“It’s a very traumatic, very concerning, very complicated job that they do for us. It really is a public service.”

Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan testifying in favor of a bill that would double from three years to six years the length of time that grand jurors would be exempt from once again having to serve on a jury.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of May 25-29, the House met for a total of two hours and 36 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 3 hours and 12 minutes.

Mon. May 25 No House session
No Senate session

Tues. May 26 No House session
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.

Wed. May 27 House 11:01 a.m. to 1:34 p.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 2:06 p.m.

Thurs. May 28 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:03 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.

Fri. May 29 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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